Civic groups yesterday urged the Department of Health (DOH) to explain why an amendment was made to the Standard of Safety Tolerance of Nuclear Fallout or Radioactivity Contamination for Food (食品中原子塵或放射能污染安全容許量標準) that allowed for higher levels of Cesium-134 (Cs-134) and Cesium-137 (Cs-137) to be permitted in food.
The DOH promulgated the amended regulation on June 27, saying that after accessing comprehensive scientific research data from around the world in recent years the current safety standards were considered to be outdated, allowing for the revision.
Although the revised safety tolerance limit of two particular radioactive isotopes — Cs-134 and Cs-137 — was reduced in dairy products and baby food from 370 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg) to 200Bq/kg, the safety level for other foods was increased from 370Bq/kg to 600Bq/kg, in the amended rules. In addition, the original safety tolerance limit of exposure to Iodine-131 (I-131) in dairy products and baby food remained unchanged at 55Bq/kg, while the limit for other foods dropped from the original level of 300Bq/kg to 100Bq/kg.
The amended rule also added new limits to seven new radioactive nuclides including strontium-89, ruthenium-103 and americium-241.
The promulgation said that because the scale of a nuclear disaster and the resultant food contamination levels could not be predicted, the authority may enact a provisional standard according to reassessment of the actual situation should an atomic accident occur in Taiwan.
A precursory 60-day public comment period ends on Aug. 29.
The Wild at Heart Legal Defense Foundation yesterday demanded zero-tolerance for infant food, saying safety tolerance levels for other foods should not be increased. It also encouraged the public to write e-mails or call the DOH to express their concerns on the issue.
On Monday, the Taipei Bar Association held a symposium on the issue during which a professor of public health questioned the loosening of restrictions and urged the country to follow Japan’s strict standards where the safety tolerance level for Cs-134 and Cs-137 were set at 100Bq/kg in April.
DOH Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials did not attend the symposium.
A statement posted on the FDA Web site said the revision of standard levels for the seven radioactive nuclides makes the regulations more complete and that Cs-134 and Cs-137 safety tolerance levels were made using international evaluation models